I Gave My Life To Jesus- Now What? Great question. In a nutshell following Jesus means that you ask Him to show you how to live your life. You ask the question, "how does following Jesus change the way I do my job; treat my family/friends; watch TV or surf the internet; handle my money; budget my time; think; talk; behave…"
We’ve noticed that there are certain indicators that people who seem to thrive in their spiritual lives share. Here’s the list:
- Reflection on the Bible: The Bible says in Psalms:
Happy are those who don’t listen to the wicked, who don’t go where sinners go, who don’t do what evil people do. They love the LORD’S teachings, and they think about those teachings day and night. They are strong, like a tree planted by a river. The tree produces fruit in season, and its leaves don’t die. Everything they do will succeed. Psalm 1:1-3 (NLT)
One of the things that people who are close to Jesus have in common is that they reflect on the Bible. You don’t have to be a biblical scholar to reflect… all you have to do is read a little bit and then reflect or think about what it means for you in your life. If you need a Bible let me know and I’ll give you one that uses modern day language and is easy to understand.
The best place to start if you’re wanting to reflect on the Bible is with the book of James (it’s towards the back of the Bible) which is a practical, how-to guide when it comes to living the life Jesus created you to live. It was written by one of Jesus’ brothers.
Another good book to read is the gospel of John. It’s the story of Jesus’ life from the perspective of His best friend. You’ll learn a lot about Jesus in the book of John.
When you read ask yourself if there’s anything there that you need to start doing in your own life. When you read the book of James you’ll find tons of stuff that James suggests (being careful what we say, think & do; how to handle our anger; how to treat other people; and on and on) and if you reflect on it and think about it and then try to do what it says, well that’s one of the key predictors or characteristics of people who have a thriving life with Jesus.
- Service To Others: People who have gone through addiction recovery programs are told of the importance of making your life about more than just yourself. Sponsors tell the Sponsored that they will never grow if they don’t learn to turn their focus outward.
They’re not wrong.
I’ve talked to a lot of graduates from recovery programs who I see when I’m out and about from time to time.
When I ask them how they’re doing I get various responses… but one common theme from all of them is this... if they’re doing good and having a great life they are always involved in some kind of service to other people and if their life sucks (their words, not mine) it always turns out they’re not involved in giving back at all. I don’t know what it is about giving back that is so powerful but it is. The Bible says this”
God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings. 1 Peter 4:10 (TLB)
God made you the way He made you on purpose. You’re not like anyone else that has ever lived. He put you together with all your gifts, skills, abilities, likes/dislikes and personality so that you could have your own unique way of giving back that nobody else can duplicate. When you try different things to discover what will be the most meaningful way for you to give back you will discover why God created you the way He did and you’ll feel what it means to really be alive. So give back in any way you can.
- Be Generous To Others:
It would seem like if you’re generous with what God has blessed you with (your time, energy, talents & resources) then that will leave you with less. But the opposite is actually true. When we are generous we find we get back more than we’ve given. As it turns out we can’t out give God. Jesus put it this way:
Give, and you will receive. You will be given much. Pressed down, shaken together, and running over, it will spill into your lap. The way you give to others is the way God will give to you. Luke 6:38 (NCV)
When we try to hold on to things that are important to us with a death grip we end up being defined by those things… and not only defined but dominated and enslaved by those things. Jesus also said this:
Your heart will always be where your treasure is. Matthew 6:21 (CEV)
That’s just the way human hearts work… they follow whatever we decide to treasure the most. If you treasure money, your heart will follow and you will be come greedy and stingy. If you treasure control your heart will follow and you will become insecure and a control freak. If you treasure pleasure your heart will follow and you will become addicted to drugs, alcohol or even sex. We need to watch carefully what we treasure.
So what’s the antidote to treasuring things that will ultimately enslave us if we’re not careful? Generosity & gratitude. Be generous with the things you have and grateful for what God has blessed you with and you will be doing one of the things that most predicts a close relationship with Jesus.
- Find a community to belong to:
People are not meant to go through life alone. We were created to live in community. But it’s not always easy to find community in this day and age (at least not the kind that supports you as you grow closer to Jesus rather than tries to drag you away). That’s why the Bible talks about community in terms of people “choosing” to belong. You have to go out and find community sometimes and then choose to belong to other people and to let other people belong to you. It’s not a comfortable thing for 21st century Americans but it is one of 5 predictors of a close and meaningful relationship with Jesus. It is also important because there are dangers in being alone and benefits to being with others:
Two people are better than one… If one falls down, the other can help him up. But it is bad for the person who is alone and falls, because no one is there to help.
Ecclesiastes 4:10 (NCV)
Sometimes we might try to talk ourselves into the delusion that we’re strong enough to handle things alone. Even if that were true (which it’s not… you might be strong right now but the day will come when even the strongest of us will have some kind of problem we can’t handle on our own and if we haven’t found a community of people to belong to we’ll have a tough time), what makes you think this is just about you? God designed you the way you are so you could make a difference in this world. And He wants you to be in community with others so that if you need help there will always be somebody there to help… but also so that when someone else needs help you might be able to help them. Both of those things are important when it comes to discovering what God put you on this earth to do.
- How You Handle Pain:
The fifth predictor of a close relationship with Jesus relates to how you look at and how you handle the pain and tough times that you will go through in your life.
Some people will tell you that if you’re going through troubles and pain then it must be your fault. There’s a fancy Greek Bible word for that kind of thinking:
Now we can make stupid decisions and cause more than our share of pain. I was an expert at that when I was a young man but that’s not what I’m talking about. Even if you could do everything exactly right (and nobody can do that except Jesus and even He had to deal with trouble and pain on a regular basis) you would still have your share of tough times just because we live in a world that has been infected by sin. Because of that we have to deal with pain, disease, natural disasters & other people whose poor decisions impact us in ways that can bring severe pain and suffering. The Bible puts it like this:
The good man does not escape all troubles— he has them too. But the Lord helps him in each and every one. Psalm 34:19 (TLB)
Unfortunately, pain is something all of us have to deal with. But how you handle it and how you think about it has everything to do with whether that pain will make you bitter or stronger. Tough times aren’t fun… but they do have an upside (if you handle think about them this way):
Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.
James 1:2-4 (NLT)
Joy? Let them be an opportunity for joy? I don’t know about you, but that’s a tough one for me… maybe someday I’ll get there. Until then I’ll push through them the best I can knowing that if I bring my troubles to Jesus and lean on Him through the storms of life that are part of everyone’s experience then I will become strong and ready for anything. But there’s one more thing I try to remember whenever I’m going through tough times and that’s this… no matter what I’m going through Jesus can redeem it and make something beautiful of my life no matter what hard things I’ve had to go through in the past. The Bible says it like this:
We know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans. Romans 8:28 (TLB)
I like to think of this as the “chocolate chip cookie” promise. If you look at the ingredients in a chocolate chip cookie (flour, eggs, sugar, shortening, vanilla, chocolate chips, milk, salt, etc) you’ll see that some of them are pretty good all by themselves (sugar, milk, chocolate chips). Some of them are neither good or bad by themselves (salt, vanilla, etc) but some of them are lousy all by themselves (flour, raw eggs, shortening). But when you mix them all up and bake them for 15 minutes at 350 degrees you come up with something absolutely wonderful (warm chocolate chip cookies are, in my humble opinion, one of the proofs that a loving God does indeed exist).
Our experiences are the same in a way. There are some of your past experiences that are really good, some that are neither good or bad, and some that are painful to think about and make you wonder if you’ll ever get past them. God’s promise from Romans 8:28 says that He will take all your experiences (the good, the bad and the ugly) and mix them together and what comes out when He’s finished is something beautiful no matter what’s happened to you or whose fault it was or wasn’t.
When we remember these things as we go through the tough times in our lives it is one of the characteristics and predictors of a close, meaningful relationship with Jesus.